Five Tips for Writing a Standout Extracurricular Resume

A lot of students don’t think much about their extracurricular resume – after all, you’re going to enter your activities on the Common App anyway, right? On the contrary, your resume is an essential component of your college application. It provides admissions officers with a snapshot of your interests, skills, and achievements outside of academics. And if you take advantage of the opportunity, it can show off exactly what’s special about you and why they should accept you.

To make your extracurricular resume stand out, here are five tips you can follow:

1. Detail, detail, detail!

Too often, we see students who think that they “can’t fit” much detail because the resume can only be a page or two. But it’s the opposite – the lack of space makes it even more important that you fit in as much specific detail as possible. Don’t just say you have a leadership position in your club, describe exactly how you contribute to the club’s success. The point of the extracurricular resume is to give the admissions officers a sense of what you actually do every day, so go into detail!

Sometimes it’s hard for students to remember everything they’ve done, which is why tracking is so important! From 8th grade on, we give our students activity trackers so they can write down important details from each of their activities and accomplishments. If you haven’t been tracking since 8th grade, that’s okay – it’s never too late to start!

2. Numbers are your friend

The eye is naturally drawn to numbers, so include them whenever possible. For example, rather than just stating you raised money through bake sales, it’s a lot more impactful and eye-catching to write that you “organized bake sales that raised $500 of funding.”

3. Use strong action verbs

Did you notice that I used the word “organized” in my revised description? Instead of weak or passive verbs like “did,” “handled,” or “was responsible for,” try “coordinated,” “executed,” “managed,” etc. Strong action verbs tell the admissions officers that you’re proactive and that you really make an impact in the organizations that you’re a part of.

4. Tell a story

In every aspect of your college application, your goal should be to tell a story about yourself. So in your resume, don’t just list your activities in chronological order – list them in order of impressiveness. If you’re an aspiring doctor, don’t give the same amount of real estate to all of your activities – give an in-depth description of your Alzheimer’s research and a brief mention of founding the table tennis club.

5. Don’t undersell yourself!

This is one of the biggest issues I see when working with students on their resumes. If you’ve accomplished something, if you’ve made a real impact, then sell it! If you got into a selective program, tell the reader how selective it was. If you mentored other students on your sports team, go into detail about how much they improved. This is your opportunity to brag, to show off how unique and impressive you are, so colleges have no choice but to accept you.

-Janey T.

Assistant Director of College Counseling

Columbia University (MFA), Brown University (BA)

Applying to college? Find out more about our college counseling services here!

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